THANKS to adrenalin released during a workout, you may feel as if exercise gives you energy after a draining day at the office. This is deceptive, because your body can’t tell the difference between stress at work or in your private life, and stress from working out.

You might feel a mental boost, but for your body the effects are the same. Working out when you’re exhausted puts a heavier burden on your tired body.

Be aware of your fatigue. Accept it – don’t settle for thinking fatigue is a luxury problem, because fatigue can make you sick. Coffee, badly scheduled workouts and willpower can help you function at your present level for another few months or years, but you’re not reaching your full potential and fatigue will just accumulate.

Here are some guidelines on what you can expect when you start or get back into exercise when you’re fatigued. Each individual should work on a holistic action plan, leaving nothing to chance. One type of fatigue often affects another, so a tailored approach is best.

Basic mobility

Mobility is the first step toward a healthy lifestyle. We move less in this digital age. Humans were built to cross vast distances and do the occasional sprint in search of food, or when danger lurked. Today we take the car.

Our biggest threat comes from our work environment. We spend most time sitting in an office or car. You can be sedentary for up to 10 hours at a time. When you come home you unwind in front of the television, with a book, or at a restaurant – adding more sedentary time.

Like smoking, hypertension and heart disease, sitting is a risk factor for your health. The evidence can be found in countless studies, and the World Health Organisation agrees.

A sedentary lifestyle also results in reduced recovery capacity – indirectly you become more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. Moving is a basic need. It provides relaxation and keeps your muscles and joints supple. Specialists recommend getting up and stretching your legs every 30 minutes, and moving for at least 30 minutes a day.

Moving gives you a lower risk of chronic disease, depression, physical limitations and dementia in later years. You can live happily and independently for much longer.

However, basic mobility isn’t enough. It helps sustain your health but doesn’t lead to recovery of a fatigued body or after an intense performance, or help lose weight. You need more mobility to reach your potential.


Exercise includes such wide-ranging activities as walking, playing ball, cross-training, skydiving or climbing. Recent trends are that everything needs to be longer, more intense, faster, more challenging. The question is – at what price? Exercise is the only burden on your body you have complete control over.

Since exercise stressors are equal to any other stressor, it’s not surprising more people are attending sleep clinics, and suffering burnout. This is not to scare you away from sport. On the contrary, those who approach it correctly reap the rewards.

Can physical exercise damage your health?

Physical exercise can result in injuries, often due to lack of preparation. You must consider the importance of a warmup, stretching, hydration, recovery, diet, dietary supplements, good running shoes and technique. The more intensely you exercise, the more you risk minor discomfort or injury. Overdoing it is the norm for hard-core exercisers.

A professional athlete’s career lasts an average of 15 years. Many such athletes have 10 times more risk of arthritis once their career ends than the average person.

On the other hand, professional athletes can access specialist such as kinetic therapists, personal trainers, mental coaches and dieticians. This helps to keep the risk of injury as low as possible. They also have a well-planned training schedule.

The value of a good training programme cannot be overstated. Many people give little thought to the extreme conditions we expose our bodies to, ignoring the need for rest and recovery. Don’t settle for a cheap gym membership, or information from the internet. A good personal trainer may be expensive, but so is the price you pay if your body deteriorates.

If you don’t know enough about nutrition, oxidative stress raises its ugly head. Most injuries aren’t the result of exercise, but of infections resulting from fatigue. Showing up not properly prepared for an event can even have fatal consequences.

This can often be the result of a congenital abnormality, so it is vital to have a medical examination as well as a proper training schedule.

Relaxation, not exertion

Are you one of those people who goes straight to the gym for an intense workout after a stressful day at the office? It supposedly clears the mind.

However, this is an added assault on your body. If you give an already fatigued body even more stressors, long term you will suffer from exhaustion, burnout, depression and more.

Fighting mental stress with physical stress will do you in. When you go running after a tiring day at work, you exhaust your adrenal gland and use up your reserves. Over time your resilience suffers and your immune function weakens.

Heavy physical exertion both at work and in your free time actually leads to an increased risk of heart disease.

The message is loud and clear: you need relaxation after stress, not intense exertion. Exercises like walking and swimming are fine. Light to medium exercise reduces your stress hormone levels.

Watching sports can be dangerous as well, supporters being subject to stress. Since the rising adrenalin levels aren’t accompanied by any physical exertion to justify your rapid heartbeat, being in the stands can be dangerous.

Supporters tend to reach for alcohol, tobacco and high-fat foods to compensate for their lack of action. At the height of the game the supporter crashes because his cardiovascular system fails. The result can be hypertension, trouble breathing, irregular heartbeat, even heart attack and failure.